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What Is My Onset Date?


Social Security disability benefits are for people who are disabled and in need of financial assistance. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) won’t just take your word that you’re disabled and in need; they have to investigate your claim when you apply for benefits. That means working backwards and establishing a timeline for your disability and your financial status.

Social Security runs two disability programs: disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI). Both programs require you to prove that you meet Social Security’s definition of “disabled.” They differ, however, in their financial requirements.

Your onset date is important in proving that you’re financially eligible for DIB. It’s the date you first became disabled in the eyes of the SSA.

The SSA’s Definition of “Disabled”


A person’s onset date isn’t necessarily the date they first became disabled. It’s the date they first met Social Security’s definition of “disabled.”

How is Social Security’s definition of “disabled” different from a dictionary’s? The SSA’s definition has to do with whether or not you are able to work.

For example, if you were in an accident on October 1, 2010 that left you wheelchair-bound for life, you may consider that date to be the day you became disabled. However, that wouldn’t be your onset date if you were still able to return to your desk job after the accident.

Even if your job required you to be on your feet and you couldn’t return to work, October 1 still wouldn’t be your onset date. To meet Social Security’s definition of “disabled,” you have to prove that you can’t do any work, not just the job you had or the career you trained for.

Often, disability applicants suffer from multiple conditions that, when combined, make it impossible for them to work. Applicants often find it confusing when looking at their various dates of diagnosis to determine which one is their onset date. Remember, your onset date is the date you meet Social Security’s definition of “disabled.” An Indiana disability attorney can help you look at your medical history to determine when your onset date occurred or if it hasn’t happened yet.

Why a Timeline Is Important


You may be thinking, “Why does the date I became disabled matter? What matters is that I’m disabled and in need of benefits. That should be enough.”

Your onset date is particularly important when applying for DIB because of how DIB works. DIB is Social Security’s disability insurance program. Like any other insurance program, it works by having participants pay into the system before withdrawing benefits. At a private insurance company, paying your monthly premium would keep you insured. For DIB, paying your Social Security taxes is what keeps you insured.

Your Social Security taxes are typically automatically deducted from your paycheck. If you’re not working, or if you’re working without paying taxes, then you’re not paying into the Social Security system. When you don’t pay into the system, you’ll eventually lose coverage, just like you would with any other insurance company.

Work Credits and Your Onset Date

Social Security measures your insured status by work credits. You earn 1 work credit in 2018 for every $1,320 you earn. You can only earn up to 4 work credits a year, regardless of how much money you make.

Depending on your age and the nature of your disability, you need a certain amount of work credits to qualify for DIB. Your work credits also have an expiration date. At least half of the work credits you need must come from the 10 years prior to your onset date.

Your onset date must also come before your date last insured (DLI). Your DLI is the last day for which you were insured for DIB. Because applying for disability benefits is often a lengthy process, it’s possible that your DLI will come and go before you get a decision on your case. That’s okay. As long as your onset date occurred before your DLI, you may still be eligible to receive benefits. If your DLI passes while you’re waiting for a decision, you can still get approved; you just may not be able to apply again if you’re denied at your final hearing because your work credits have already expired.

Help from an Indiana Social Security Disability Attorney

Your onset date is just one piece in the puzzle of applying for Social Security disability benefits. If you’re applying for benefits, an Indiana disability lawyer can help. Call Hensley Legal Group today or contact us online for a free consultation.